Father’s Day is just a few days away! And we hope you’ve made reservation, plans, gifts and all that jazz. But before your celebrations, we’ve got some amazing articles brewing that’s been waiting for your attention from today onwards till this Saturday!
Fathers are like pillars to a child’s behavioral-building.
For a girl, a father is her pillar of relationships and emotional support. And it will shape her way of forming bonds as well as what she will look to when she looks for a partner. For a boy, he follows in the footsteps of his father that will shape his core-values and behaviour, into the man that he’ll eventually be.
In the days to come, Sevenpie will be releasing stories from Malaysian fathers from all corners and walks of life. Within these articles, they share about life in a non-stop commitment to their bundle(s)-of-joy, and how they have coped with it no matter the circumstance.
To make it interesting, Sevenpie had the privilege to interview two unconventional fathers, one of an autistic child, and the other is the founder of a special needs school – both with the same vision: To provide a brand new life for the special needs children. While it is easy to throw in the towel when difficulties come, Dzulkaedah and Vincent’s story gave us a hopeful glimpse to the Special Needs Community as they open up and share their journey.
So get comfy, and grab your dad because these few articles are reads that you don’t want to ignore. Take a glimpse into the lives of these unsung heroes as you discover that a father’s love knows no bounds and learn how we can help the special needs children in Malaysia.
Mohd Dzulkaedah – Marathon Runner; Founder of the Dzarif Dzulkaedah Fund
Dzulkaedah translates his love for running in ways that leaves the Malaysian community, a different one! Being a father of an autistic child himself, he dedicated his passion to help other families with special needs children by raising funds through running marathons.
1. Hi Dzulkaedah, thank you for having us to hear your story! Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
Hello everyone! I am Dzulkaedah, I am 42 this year, happily married with 3 lovely children. I work as a manager in Sime Darby Property, and a fun fact about me to kickstart this interview is that I love brownies and ice cream!
2. Being a father of 3, what has been the most exciting thing about fatherhood for you so far?
Being able to be in the labour room to welcome the kids, it will change you. Every cheesy thing you hear people say about kids in the movies or in conversations is true. I enjoy and treasure my time with them and watching them grow in a loving environment that me and my wife have built for them. (With occasional disciplinary moments, of course!)
3. We know that you’ve started the ‘Dzarif Dzulkaedah Fund’ where you run to raise funds to help families with special needs children! Can you share with us what inspired you to start the project?
My youngest, Dzarif(6) is autistic. He was diagnosed when he was 2 with ‘Mild to Moderate’ Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, we have continuously engaged him in multiple support-therapy services like the Early Intervention Program (EIP), Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Swimming Therapy, and even Horse Therapy.
We are fortunate to get access to these services although it’s costly. But it led me to think about other autistic children from under-privileged families, what about them? Would it fair for them to be left out in getting those services? Hence, I approached The National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) with my intention to raise funds for their under-privileged students. And what better way to do that than to combine it with my passion- running! I set up a platform, ‘Run For Autism’, and raised funds via my first running event in the Berlin Marathon 2017. Then, NASOM named the fund as the ‘Dzarif Dzulkaedah Fund’.
Today, I’m still raising funds for the Dzarif Dzulkaedah Fund with another dad, who have an autistic son too. We will be doing our first attempt to run 100km at Janda Baik Ultra event this coming September 2019. Check out the page here.
4. What has been the proudest moment in your journey with the ‘Dzarif Dzulkaedah Fund’?
To be able to spread autism awareness and acceptance to my families, friends, and the public. And of course, to see the raised-funds making an impact to assist the identified underprivileged students at NASOM.
5. Being a father to an autistic child yourself, can you share with us some of the struggles you’ve faced and how do you overcome it?
At the early stages of raising Dzarif, I will admit I had my moments of hopelessness and feeling lost sometimes. My lack of understanding autism got me upset, when he’s not meeting my expectations. Then I realized, it’s not about Dzarif meeting my goals but vice versa. It’s about me inclusively adapting and accepting the circumstances. When I was able to see from that angle, I took small steps without any pressure to coexist with Dzarif and celebrate every small progress achieved by him.
6. How has fatherhood changed you as a person?
Fatherhood has taught me to put other people’s happiness before my own. It might not have always been perfect or easy, but with the added effort, you’ll find out that it is the most rewarding feeling. It has also made me a more patient person – not just at home but at my workplace as well. You never know what struggles are people facing.
7. Can you share with us your favourite family time?
Other than our usual movie-outings, and ‘makan-makan’ time together, we’ve also recently picked up bowling as our favourite family past-time – ever since Dzarif has been obsessed with it from console games, toys and YouTube!
8. How do you balance your time between your work, as a runner and being a father at the same time?
I would say it all takes sacrifice. My work, passion and being a father are all equally important to me, I put it as my ultimate life package. The key to it is to keep yourself at a balanced pace. Sometimes, you would need to forego certain things: like having to do something that your kids like. That would mean having to forego what you would want to do – but it’s a sacrifice worth doing.
9. What are some of the uncompromisable values you’ve built in your family?
The values I’ve built in my family would be to have love and show respect. Expression is allowed, Hiding is not – I’m here to listen, so don’t be afraid to voice out.
I find that often times, there is a stigma in Asian-parenting, where we seldom express to our kids. And I do not agree with that. I would like my kids to be honest and confide in me and know that they can count on me when they need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, no matter how bad the situation.
10. Years from now, your children will be reading this! What would be your message for them?
It would be to become good citizens to the country and have faith in God, regardless of what life brings you.
Vincent Cheng – Founder of Elevate Learning Centre; Wedding Photographer
Seeing the needs of the Special Needs Children community here in Malaysia, Vincent couldn’t stand being on the side-lines doing nothing. Instead, he took over and rebuild Elevate Learning Centre – an education centre for Special Needs Children. Now, he is changing lives: one child at a time. Read on to hear his experience teaching the Special Needs Children here in Malaysia!
1. Hi Vincent! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself!
Hi, my name is Vincent Cheng, I’m the founder of Elevate Learning. Previously known as Katsu Training & Development, Elevate Learning was established in August 2014 with an aim to empower children with special needs through education and social development.
2. As the founder of Elevate Learning, what inspired you to start Elevate Learning?
It wasn’t much of an inspirational moment when I decided to take over Elevate Learning, it was more of a need that I saw in the special needs children community here in Malaysia. Having to work in the IT industry for a good 11 years, making this decision to rebuild Elevate Learning wasn’t an easy one, especially when I was earning a very comfortable income.
My mother-in-law was a Special Education Teacher at Katsu Training and Development for the last 10 years. Having to hear the news that the school was going to close down, I felt sorry for the students because they will not have a place to go to once the school is closed down. Knowing this, I couldn’t stand by idly and watch. I met the owner and decided to continue this work. It was then that it all started: we renamed ourselves to Elevate Learning and the rest is history! With no experience in teaching or running a school, I had to attend workshops to learn how to care about the students with special needs – with my mother-in-law by my side to guide me.
3. Working at Elevate Learning also means you’d be spending a lot of time with the special needs children. What were some of your best memories with the special needs children?
My best memories are always when a child managed to overcome their learning disabilities. I’ve seen a boy that struggled from having no focus, struggling in making eye contact, to being able to sit still, follow lessons and instructions well. This may seem like a small improvement to us, but to them – it is a huge step forward!
We have even seen a boy that is unable to read and now being assimilated into mainstream education!
4. What are some of the struggles you’ve faced running the centre?
One of the struggles would be to find businesses willing to hire a special needs person. Ultimately, the end goal would be to raise the children until they are able to stand on their own two feet. It would be great if I am able to find business partners who are willing to hire these special needs children and work with them in the future!
5. Aside from running the centre, you’re also doing your own wedding photography services! We’ve seen the photos on Trees On The Moon and we’re totally in love with it! How do you balance your time being an entrepreneur, running the centre, as well as being a husband?
For me, true fulfilment really comes when running this school. To be able to provide a new life for the kids, to restart – is certainly fulfilling. Photography was always my passion, but running the school gives me purpose. I guess balancing is an art and it can be very tiring! You will have to fall eventually. I guess it’s all about just doing what you have to do and to do what you want to do. Everything will always be impossible until you do something about it.
6. Where do you see yourself in 2 years’ time?
I want to partner with sustainable businesses or perhaps start something new on my own that will ultimately provide job opportunities for people with special needs.
7. Lastly, what are some advice you can give to parents out there with special needs children?
My advice would be to just accept your child and to love them. Don’t forget to spend more time with them. Raising a child with special needs is a lifelong process of learning, you just have to keep on ‘keeping on’.